When it comes to choosing code names for their secret operations, American and British agents demonstrate a flare for creativity. Sometimes they borrow from Mother Nature, with monikers such as “EVILOLIVE” and “EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE.” Other times, they would seem to take their guidance from Hollywood. A program called TREASUREMAP even has its own logo, a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eye holes glowing in demonic red, reminiscent of a movie poster for the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, starring Johnny Depp.
TREASUREMAP is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.
Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn’t just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.
The breathtaking mission is described in a TREASUREMAP presentation from the documents of the former intelligence service employee Edward Snowden. It instructs analysts to “map the entire Internet — Any device, anywhere, all the time.”
TREASUREMAP allows for the creation of an “interactive map of the global Internet” in “near real-time,” the document notes. Employees of the so-called “FiveEyes” intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird’s eye view of the planet’s digital arteries.
In addition to monitoring one’s own networks as well as those belonging to “adversaries,” TREASUREMAP can also help with “Computer Attack/Exploit Planning.” As such, the program offers a kind of battlefield map for cyber warfare.
The New York Times reported on the existence of TREASUREMAP last November, but did not publish the source documents.
TREASUREMAP graphics don’t just provide detailed views of cable and satellite networks. Red markings also reveal to agents which carriers and internal company networks FiveEyes agencies claim to have already accessed.
The legend for the graphics in question explains the meaning behind the red markings: “Red Core Nodes: SIGINT Collection access points within AS [Autonomous Systems].” In other words, networks marked with a red dot are under observation.